This afternoon my daughter returns from a week at band camp, and assuming she isn't too exhausted or overheated, we're going to go play. See you in the morning.
I believe it was Chris Hayes I heard ask last night: Will Trump, in the debate next week, "be terrible or great"? All I recall from the guest's answer was what it should have been, which raced through my mind: Trump will do terribly, and his mushrooming base will say he did great. In a way, he will do great, because, utterly devoid of empirical knowledge or any rational policy prescriptions moving forward, he will shoot not so much from the hip (or "from the lip," as Politico frames it) as he will shoot from the gut. And that, above all else, is what the Republican base admires.
Meanwhile, Bush is up to his usual misapprehension of What in hell is going on. "After a week mostly away from the campaign trail," reports Politico, "Jeb Bush will hunker down with top advisers for what aides described as 'intense debate preparation' starting this weekend in Miami." It's reported as well that Bush is "paring down his deep policy knowledge [irony unintended] into sharper, cleaner responses that fit the first debate’s 90-second time limit." Kinda sad.
An anonymous debate coach says this of the 10 participants (OK, nine):
They’ll be thinking about strategy, how they want to handle the debate, what their message will be, how they’re going to handle other candidates onstage — and then they’re going to think about how they can create an instance in the debate where they get the attention of the audience. They’ll be thinking about their one-liners and their 'sayables' — phrases they can use that are going to get picked up.
That last advice is all Jeb Bush needs to embrace. Go for anti-Trump one-liners, zingers, punchy 10-second soundbites. "Paring down" his policy knowledge — the authentically knowledgeable parts of which the Republican base detests — is an absolute waste of time. This "debate" will be a shootout, nothing more, and the media will endlessly loop only the bloodiest segments.
Humorous shots will score more points and earn the most media coverage. In short, what Bush needs are merely a passable memory and a first-rate joke writer, not pared-down policies and a debate coach.
It might not match Trump's stand-up routine, but at least it's something, which Bush seems to lack.
In an effort "to refashion the liberal cable channel as a straight-forward news and politics offering," NBC News' supreme Andrew Lack is calling home MSNBC's "The Cycle," "Now with Alex Wagner" and "The Ed Show."
Yet Lord Lack moves in mysterious ways. He giveth relief and taketh it right back: "MSNBC will add a 5 p.m. program hosted by 'Meet The Press' moderator Chuck Todd."
I can't quite identify the source of my rather extreme Toddian discomfort. It could be that his hovering all-knowingness and "insider" certainty rub my Montaignean skepticism the wrong way. But those are hardly rare attributes in network pundits. So I just don't know.
At any rate, my creeping uneasiness has converted into full-blown apoplexy. Here I am, with neighbors in the foreground, upon hearing Mr. Todd last week — or is that Rachel Maddow? — on the teevee machine:
No bullet quotes this time; merely one paragraph demonstrating that brilliance in one field — in Paglia's case, literary criticism — doesn't naturally translate into brilliance in another. From Salon's interview, Part II, the astute critic and bumbling political analyst declares:
I don’t see Hillary as even getting as far as the debates! If things continue to trend downward for her, in terms of her favorability and the increasing scandals, then the Democratic establishment will have to take action to avoid a sure GOP win. Hillary has way too much baggage for a general election–that should have been obvious from the start…. I don’t think Hillary wants to be defeated, so what I’ve been predicting all along is that there will be a "health crisis," and she will withdraw. Right now, her campaign is trying to change the headlines by releasing some new policy statement every day, but it’s not going to change the looming investigations into her conduct as Secretary of State. And of course the GOP is holding back its real anti-Hillary ammunition until she’s the nominee. Then we’ll all be plunged backward into the endless nightmare of the Clinton years–it will be pure hell!
Let us pass over the paragraph's opening. It's just too weird. Perhaps Paglia was speculating after a few belts of bourbon; maybe she had just emerged from a transcendentalist trance; or, it could be that she was only playing that old prediction game of long shots. There is a one-in-a-million chance she's right, and if so, she'll be hailed as a seer. If she's wrong — which she is — no one will remember. It's a paradox: In political punditry, long-shot predictions are the safest bets. (Mark it: I hereby predict that Ben Carson will be the Republican nominee. When he isn't, forget it.)
What beguiles are Paglia's strategic references to "looming investigations" into Hillary's recent official conduct and the GOP's menacing firepower aimed at her, now held in cunning reserve. In Salon Interviews Paglia Part I the critic admitted to habitually snorting "Drudge." Alas, her addiction may be catching up to her. There are no looming investigations; there are only Republicans' fifth, sixth, tenth, fiftieth rehashes of fizzled investigations. If I may enter Paglia's academic field for one moment: Theirs is merely a knockoff of Moby-Dick.
And my, how clever of the GOP to hold back "its real anti-Hillary ammunition" until Hillary is in the snare. Paglia doesn't reveal who these Bulging schemers are, but if they're really loaded for $600 hair, then they're a wickedly conspiratorial bunch capable of concealing the most magnificent counteroffensive in American political warfare. Clear throat. We're talking about the modern GOP here — a chaotic gang that shoots every which way but out.
The final sentence in Paglia's paragraphical insights is, sadly, all too true. Republican assaults throughout the general-election season (and into Hillary's presidency) will plunge us relentlessly backward into the nightmare of Gingrichism. But I look at this this way. As Kafkaesque as it all will be, Kafka is also endlessly entertaining. It's not as though there's an alternative to mad-dog electioneering or presidential butchery in American democracy; we are hooked on politics as a bloodsport, and that's that. Perhaps 2016's surrealism will metamorphose into rereadings of Dante's maiden cantos. Hellish? Sure. But an entertaining hellishness? You bet.
I'm about to give up on standards, especially those of the NY Times. Its latest atrocity is a review of Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics, "a memoir of sorts by the delightfully named Barton Swaim, who worked for [Gov. Mark] Sanford for three years and 10 months, from 2007 until 2010." The review is written by one Sarah Lyall, a "New York Times writer at large," according to her Twitter page. A writer she may be, but a reviewer — with standards — she ain't.
Ms. Lyall describes Mr. Swaim as "so talented a writer" — why, the man could just make pert near any story "come alive in the best possible way." She describes his book as "a wryly funny, beautifully written, sometimes bewildered, always astute dissection of" … full stop. If you've read the book, as I did one afternoon a couple weeks ago, you're at this point scratching your head, trying to reconcile Lyall's swooning with Swaim's writing.
It's a not a bad book. At times it is somewhat amusing. But wryly funny? Beautifully written? Always astute? Thus enters bewilderment. The book is to memoirs what John Grisham is to Great American novelists. It is by and large competently written, and about 70 percent of it is just interesting enough to carry the reader to the end. It is there, however, that the bloody pile-up occurs. Mr. Swaim goes out in a melancholy breakdown of moralistic innocence and almost unbelievable shallowness. To wit …
Politicians, he had discovered, "should never be trusted." Such is Swaim's blockbuster conclusion, which rambles on for several pages — amidst which is this:
I must sound hopelessly naïve. Hadn't I noticed that politicians are prone to vanity, and that vanity frequently unmakes them? Yes, I had noticed. But I had thought of it mainly as a joke. Now I realized it wasn't a joke. It was the most important thing.
Vanity was the most important thing? Swaim drops this on us — at page 200 — smack in the middle of his thematic thrust about the preeminent need to distrust politicians. By then I had only four more pages to go, however, so I didn't worry about which was which. Swaim obviously didn't. Why should I?
As for that closing, yawn-evoking theme of "distrust." I'm a compulsive marginalia man, and reopening the book to the final page, I see I scribbled: "This is a pathetic, sophomoric conclusion that is stunning — in that it ever got published by Simon & Schuster."
I thought, then, that that was the end of my being stunned. It wasn't. Still to come was the NYT's sparkling review.
The charge that different rules apply to the Clintons is double-edged: Bill gets to get away with everything, while Hillary gets away with nothing. The problem is that Hillary seems to think she's playing by Bill's rules, thus she blithely feeds the press's hostility, such as A.B. Stoddard's:
In just days, Clinton has issued dire warnings about climate change; been caught jumping on and off a private plane; pledged, because of the plane’s emissions, to make her campaign carbon neutral (without revealing how); jetted to New York City for a $600 haircut; and refused to reveal her position on the Keystone XL pipeline, which those same voters interested in climate change are asking her about….
The brains at the updated and upgraded campaign who refused to repeat the mistakes of the 2008 operation should reconsider whether Hillary Clinton can actually win the White House with a campaign that’s now a joke.
Updated, upgraded indeed. At times Team Hillary proves itself even more feckless than in its 2008 abomination. Hers can be an unfathomable approach that only makes students of politics — those students outside the Clinton bubble, that is — grimace. In this era of prairie-fire populism I wouldn't permit my candidate within 100 yards of a $600 salon. Yet there goes Hillary, only to have it splashed on The Hill's op-ed page, thereupon to ripple throughout the electorate — right up to the office watercooler.
Why does Hillary possess a deficit of 7 points when pollsters ask voters, "Would you say that Hillary Clinton cares about the needs and problems of people like you?" You just read one explanation — which would be obvious to anyone but a Hillary aide, or, it seems, Hillary herself. They too often just don't get politics.
Try as we might, we'll never outwit the powerful mind of Louie Gohmert:
We could take four heterosexual couples, married, and put them on an island where they have everything they need to sustain life. Then take four all-male couples and put them on an island with all they need to sustain life, take four couples of women, married, and put them on an island, and let’s come back in 100 to 200 years and see which one nature says is the preferred marriage.
Of course the four couples of women could survive into future generations, via in vitro fertilization. The only danger is that the anonymous sperm donors might in fact come from the Gohmert clan, in which case we'd dock, in the 22nd century, on the Island of Dr. Moreau.
Interesting. Even fascinating. And hugely depressing. Quinnipiac.
Clinton … gets 41 percent to Bush's 42 percent.
Even undeclared Biden squeezes by Bush, 43-42, although his undeclared status probably explains his lead.
Nevertheless, "Clinton gets 55 percent of Democratic voters nationwide." (Thirteen percent are pro-Biden.)
Then there's this. "If the election for the U.S. House of Representatives were being held today, would you vote for the Republican candidate or for the Democratic candidate in your district?" Republicans top the Dems by 2 percent (39-37); independents favor Republicans by 10. The same 2-percent GOP spread holds for the Senate.
And who remains the GOP's top spokesman, the embodiment of all things Republican? You got it. Trump, who leads Bush by 10.
Hillary has a net unfavorability rating of 11 percent. Trump's is 32, but, come on. Bush's net favorability is 2.
Hillary loses the "honest and trustworthy" question game by 20 points. Jeb wins it by 16.
"Would you say that Hillary Clinton cares about the needs and problems of people like you?" No, by 7 points. For Bush, yes, by 2.
Honest/Trustworthy and Cares/Problems are the two "most important personal qualit[ies] in deciding [one's] vote in the 2016 general election for president." Strong Leadership trails both by at least 7.
Please don't tell me American voters aren't yet paying attention. Presidential campaigns haven't received this much early attention since Andrew Jackson launched his second bid immediately after losing his first.
It's all quite interesting, to me, even fascinating — and depressing to the bone. This isn't to predict that Bush will win. He, or some fungible clod, will likely wind up with the same 47.2 percent that the fungibly cloddish Mitt Romney reaped in 2012. Likewise the House, anyway, will remain the same — the same sewer of witless obstruction. It's the sameness that's depressing.
While Republican presidential candidates are promising an American paradise once they're in office, Republican congressfolk, already there, are "tee[ing] up a hellish final few months of 2015," observes Politico.
The story isn't a news story in the traditional sense of news and reporting; it's more of a reminder that the beast always stalks. The old Will Rogers line that America is safest when Congress is recessed is no longer valid: Whether at home or in Washington, GOP congressvores thrive perpetually on an inhuman diet of savage calamities, old obstructions and fresh imbecilities.
There is no refuge from the beast, for the beast is us. We not only put it there, in both houses, it is our representative "voice." Loud, abrasive, triumphantly dysfunctional Trumpism doesn't threaten us in some wickedly anticipatory way. It's been devouring the nation since 2011.
And we're in for a real beast-feast this fall.
"After the monthlong August recess" — throughout which, in district after district and state after state, Iran will unmistakably transmogrify into Nazi Germany and the Joker will be unmasked as Neville Chamberlain — "Congress will have just 12 workdays in September to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1," Politico reminds us. Before year's end, "highway funding is set to expire — again," since mindless beasts are rather poor planners. Also coming will be another chest-pounding feeding over the abused carcass of the Export-Import Bank.
Then, just to top it all off, we'll witness the monstrous horror of "a GOP-led Capitol" confronting a debt ceiling.
Ask 300 monkeys to transcribe Hamlet and in three billion years they might get it right; alas that's a more sanguine expectation than asking 300 Republican pols to comprehend invoices due from bills they helped to rack up. They sit, pawing at the thing, this debt-ceiling thing, in utter mystification. What is it? Is it alive, can we kill it, can we eat it? Christ. Even unpeeled-banana-eating monkeys understand this one.
North Dakota's Sen. Heidi Heitkamp says of the GOP grotto, where the wild things are: "This place boggles my mind every single day." It's a wonder she has one left. Aside from their regular diet of calamities and obstructions and imbecilities, Republicans eat brains, too.
I adore a well-articulated narrowness of mind parading as vastness, and Camille Paglia spews it in spades in this fascinating Salon interview. Some selections:
*I don’t believe there is a God, but I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced.
*Christopher Hitchens’ book "God is Not Great" was a travesty. He sold that book on the basis of the brilliant chapter titles…. [Richard] Dawkins also seems to be an obsessive on some sort of personal vendetta, and again, he’s someone who has never taken the time to do the necessary research into religion.
*I think Stewart’s show demonstrated the decline and vacuity of contemporary comedy. I cannot stand that smug, snarky, superior tone…. As for his influence, if he helped produce the hackneyed polarization of moral liberals versus evil conservatives, then he’s partly at fault for the political stalemate in the United States.
*Liberalism has sadly become a knee-jerk ideology, with people barricaded in their comfortable little cells. They think that their views are the only rational ones, and everyone else is not only evil but financed by the Koch brothers. It’s so simplistic!
*The first thing I always turn to [for news] is the Drudge Report…. Silly people claim he’s stuck in the past, but that’s absurd. Drudge is invoking the great populist formula of tabloids like the New York Post and the New York Daily News, which were pitched to working-class readers.
*Now, I’m a supporter of Martin O’Malley–I sent his campaign a contribution the very first day he declared. But I would happily vote for Sanders in the primary.
Where to begin? At the beginning, and wrapping up quickly. On religion, Paglia declares its historical greatness via helpless relativity, that is, by comparing it to contemporary liberalism — which is like my saying I deeply respect Mike Huckabee's intellect compared to that of a mushroom. As for Hitchens' book, he'd probably agree it wasn't one of his finer efforts. I certainly would. But both he and Dawkins fail to fathom, as I do, doing the "necessary research into religion" when the subject material is hopelessly metaphysical and therefore utterly unknowable. Besides, what "research" proves its truths that transcend the writings of Chaucer, Shakespeare or Cervantes? Jon Stewart. I stopped watching his show after his third, deadpan gaze, but if Paglia really believes that the "The Daily Show" contributed to the insane political statement we've reached, then, well, she leaves me speechless. Drudge's critics are "silly." That speaks for itself. Finally, liberalism is a "sad," "knee-jerk ideology" — and for some, that's true — says Paglia. She then adds that she's a supporter of Martin O'Malley, who, as far as I can tell, holds every approved view in liberalism's ideological playbook.
You should read the entire interview. I omitted a lot of really entertaining stuff.
Now, Josh, you're just being silly:
Well, this polling (through Monday) is good enough for me, since it comes from Morning Consult, whose self-described original reporting and morning email briefings make it possible for you to know everything you need to know, every day, at the intersection of Wall Street and business strategy, policy and politics.
Friends, we have struck the mother lode of omniscience — Montaigne, R.I.P.
So on to ultimate, or, at minimum, necessary knowledge:
Trump has support from 24 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents..., well ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who finishes with 13 percent of the vote.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker finishes in third place, at 9 percent, while retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is the choice of 8 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. No other candidate tops 5 percent of the vote.
The poll's most delightful finding is that Marco the Magnificent is tied with Ahab Christie, at 5 percent, which is a whole one point ahead of Hapless Huck.
And that's the final word on today's Great Republican Tail-Chase.
The NY Times reports that Donald Trump has, "over the past decade," been guilty of "hyperbolic overstatements" and "shadings of the truth or even outright misstatements."
And, "in rare instances" — I don't quite understand the qualification — Trump "turns boorish and demeaning."
The Times also reports that Trump's "public persona can have a one-dimensional quality."
That's what the NY Times reports about Donald Trump.
It also reports that dogs have fleas, the color of snow is white, our rivers are full of fish, and that Franco is still dead.
This week, my daughter's away at band camp. I just caught myself talking to myself.
I persist, as a widower still in love with my wife, in refusing new companionship, which perhaps explains my self-mutterings. Am I wrong in my persistence?
Outside opinion on this has varied. Here at home, however, I'm adamant, and my daughter, natural psychologist that she is, appreciates my adamancy as reason enough to concur. Yet when one finds oneself in vocal conversation with oneself, it rather shakes one's certainty.
I post this therapeutically. At least I'm talking to you, and not myself.
A reader raises the question (and I suspect objection): What is genuine conservatism? It's a fair, reasonable question to pose, given my frequency of prattling on about contemporary conservatism's lack of authentic conservatism; its transformation into what the historian Richard Hofstadter usefully called "pseudoconservatism."
The answer is as varied as the question's answerers. No two liberals or two progressives and for damn sure no two socialists would provide identical answers as to what liberalism, progressivism, or socialism is. Unless one is a by-the-book ideologue, political philosophies are deeply personal, and thus reflect personality. So all I can do is offer my formulation of genuine conservatism, which relies on admittedly selective readings of Edmund Burke, as well as Russell Kirk, one of Burke's 20th-century exegetists. I'll keep this short. This is, after all, a blog post, not a term paper.
First, Burke would have abhorred Tea Party conservatism, which it isn't. "When I hear the simplicity of contrivance aimed at and boasted of in any new political constitutions," he groaned, "I am at no loss to decide that the artificers are grossly ignorant of their trade, or grossly negligent of their duty." The key word there is "simplicity," which, of course, has spanned "conservative" thinking from (original) Goldwaterism to Cruzism. The Arizona senator who launched much of today's pseudoconservative madness not only aimed at but boasted of simplicity as a political project, and his philosophical inheritors — the Texas senator is merely one of millions — have lived up to Barry's once-simplistic will. The negative that introduces this paragraph is, to my way of thinking, one leg of genuine conservatism.
Second, genuine conservatism, in my view and Burke's, respects the forces of change. "We must all obey the great law of change," wrote Burke. "It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation." Burke's recognition of sociopolitical change as the conservation, or preservation, of society is the bedrock of an authentic conservative philosophy. What follows in Burke's passage distinguishes conservatism from its more restless philosophical opponents. "All we can do, and that human wisdom can do, is to provide that the change shall proceed by insensible degrees. This has all the benefits which may be in change, without any of the inconveniences of mutation."
Third, Kirk reformulated and only slightly modified the above-cited Burkean sentiment in what I regard as a pronouncement of extraordinary wisdom: "Conservatism never is more admirable than when it accepts changes that it disapproves, with good grace, for the sake of a general conciliation." There's something remarkably Eisenhowerian about that line, whether we think of the Kansan's gracious, conciliatory wartime management of squabbling allies or his presidential acceptance of New Dealism. Graciousness, I would submit, rounds out any genuine conservatism.
Yet, so that we avoid pseudoconservatism's simplicity, any valid interpretation of genuine conservatism can't be as simple as what I have laid out. That is to say, Franklin Roosevelt, the founder of modern progressivism, was a conservative. The liberally sainted John Kennedy was a conservative. Indeed, Barack Obama is a conservative. None these leaders ever held to radical change; each was, or is, cautious, meditative, and vastly conciliatory. Change by sensible but incremental degrees has historically defined progressivism as conservatism, and vice versa.
It is this philosophical confluence that always puzzled me about Andrew Sullivan's "conservative" blog posts and essentially aligns me, a leftist, with the conservative Bruce Bartlett — whom I pitied, here, only yesterday. I rarely disagreed with Sullivan, and for that matter, from what I gathered, he rarely disagreed with me. Same goes with everything I've read and heard from Bartlett, as well as many other sane conservatives who have been righteously — and on their end, gratefully — banished from Bedlam. We all agree, I'd wager, on a good 80 percent of What Is To Be Done? Our philosophical similarities swamp our disagreements, genuine conservatism melds with modern progressivism, and near 80 percent of the American electorate would, in any moment of honesty, ponder our assorted proposals and say, Well, yeah, sure, they seem reasonable to me.
In brief, What is genuine conservatism? The answer, I'd say, is that it's very much like smart progressivism — incremental, gracious, and conciliatory.
p.s.: I have reopened the comment section for this post. I welcome your thoughts, be they agreements or objections.
Poor John Podhoretz, the NY Post's hapless hack. Even when he strains to get something right — "[Trump] is garnering support that may actually be real, and may actually change the course of the 2016 election — and, therefore, American history — through nothing more than blowhardism" — Podhoretz always manages to get something else dreadfully wrong, which emphasizes his and all the little Podhoretzes' general wrongness. To wit,
[W]hile happy talk (some of which I’ve indulged in myself) may dismiss Trump as this year’s flash-in-the-pan like the 2012 Republican also-rans, right now he’s more likely a version of Ross Perot in 1992 — the man who got Bill Clinton elected.
The "myth" of Perot's Clinton-assist has been debunked for years by competent election analysts. The myth has long since departed from the respectable status of speculation or debate; it is, and has been for some time, purely a myth. Anyone who follows politics, which Mr. Podhoretz claims to, appreciates the myth as myth only. In 2011, for instance, Clinton-era-obsessed Steve Kornacki observed in anticipation of yet more Podhoretzian wrongheadedness:
[The myth] is completely and thoroughly untrue — and it’s not an even remotely ambiguous matter….
A comprehensive national exit poll found that Perot voters were divided almost evenly on their second choice and that Clinton — in a two-way race — would still have beaten Bush by 5.8 million votes….
Repeat after me: Ross Perot did not "cost" George H.W. Bush the 1992 election. If you see or hear a commentator using this claim as supporting evidence, immediately discount whatever argument that commentator is advancing.
We have a first! One cannot, in this case, discount Podhoretz's larger argument — i.e., that Trump is a game-changer. Podhoretz is indisputably correct about that, but only because this is one immensely indisputable reality that even half-witted NY Post columnists can't deny.
Still, Podhoretz's "supporting" argument is thunderingly emblematic of what got the Podhoretzes where they are, which is to say, in the toilet with Trumpism. They ignore facts, don't listen to reason, and only toy with reality now and then. They detest history, they're dismissive of science, they're economically ineducable, and their foreign policies are straight out of fantasy literature. You can show them evidence upon evidence that Ross Perot didn't elect Bill Clinton or that the planet is warming or that Laffer curves are a joke or that American firepower often boomerangs and they'll simply fold their arms and sniff "Go away," which Mr. Podhoretz once dismissively sniffed at yours truly.
What's been the payoff of all their obstinance? Donald Trump and base-supported Trumpism, that's what. And now they're whining about both. Along with warning them that, for instance, blowing up the Middle East probably wouldn't pacify the Middle East, we warned the clowns that populist Trumpism would someday kill them. They sniffed, of course. And now we might very well die of laughter.
Donald Trump had slipped a bit in the polls, from around 25 percent to about 18 percent. The "rape" story should get his numbers back up.
It plays directly into his strategic appeal: the mean media are out to get him, with assists from "status quo" opponents.
I don't know how one kills this thing called Trump, but I do know this isn't it. Attack him and he thrives; expose him and he forcefully attacks; ignore him, and he has the GOP universe to himself.
His is a kind of Borg ballet.
Writing for National Memo, David Cay Johnston displays his annoying habit of asking good questions of Donald Trump:
I have covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years — including breaking the story that in 1990, when he claimed to be worth $3 billion but could not pay interest on loans coming due, his bankers put his net worth at minus $295 million. And so I have closely watched what Trump does and what government documents reveal about his conduct.
Reporters, competing Republican candidates, and voters would learn a lot about Trump if they asked for complete answers to these 21 questions.
Johnston goes on to ask them, among which is:
You sent your top lieutenant, lawyer Harvey I. Freeman, to negotiate with Ken Shapiro, the "investment banker" for Nicky Scarfo, the especially vicious killer who was Atlantic City’s mob boss, according to federal prosecutors and the New Jersey State Commission on Investigation.
Since you emphasize your negotiating skills, why didn’t you negotiate yourself?
Questions like that annoy me. While it's true that whatever doesn't kill Trump only makes him stronger, it's also eerily true that enough questions could, in the aggregate, do him in. We should be supportive of Mr. Trump, not inquisitive.
At any rate, Johnston's Scarfo question reminded me to warn you: Beware of AMC's "The Making of the Mob." Two or three weeks ago I tuned in and heard that Al Capone was sent to Alcatraz, "where he would spend the rest of his life." In fact, Capone was released from Alcatraz in 1939. The syphilitic ghoul died in 1946, at home, in Florida.
I loathe sloppy history. Precisely how many counterfactual insults "Making of the Mob" producers have inflicted on their audience, I don't know. But I'm guessing it's more than one. Beware.
Bruce Bartlett, writing for Politico Magazine:
As a moderate Republican who voted for Obama, I should be Donald Trump’s natural enemy. Instead, I’m rooting for him….
Trump’s nomination would give what’s left of the sane wing of the GOP a chance to reassert control in the wake of his inevitable defeat, because it would prove beyond doubt that the existing conservative coalition cannot win the presidency.
I endorse Bartlett's championing of Trump. The sane wing's only hope of party recontrol is indeed a "historic thrashing" of the "yahoo" crowd, as Bartlett puts it. Yet that hope, while more suitable to moderates than extreme despair, I suppose, is a tragically faint one. The Republican Party's primordial muck is too deep; that sucking sound we hear is the pseudoconservative swamp ruthlessly engorging the party body and soul.
As I see it, the cardinal flaw in Bartlett's analysis — an error I myself have committed for approximately a decade now — resides in his proposition that a Trump- or Trump-like implosion would "prove beyond doubt" that yahooism is a loser. But prove to whom? The yahoos? Nothing of any sanity has ever proved anything "beyond doubt" to that crowd. That's what makes them yahoos. Instill them with reason and logic and some rudimentary human intelligence and, presto, one un-yahoos them. That, however, is an act reserved only for divine intervention, and miracles have been somewhat short of late.
Prove, perhaps, to Bartlett & Co. that the "existing conservative coalition" can't retake the presidency? The moderate Bartletts — the sane crowd — already know that. Prove to non-Republicans and anti-Republicans that the coalition is doomed? They, of course, are of less influence on the GOP than GOP moderates are. Prove electoral catastrophe, maybe, to the right-wing noise machine? — prove it to the Fox Newsers and Limbaughs and Savages? Their profits rely on attack, not defense; hence those profits are far more secure with a Democrat in the White House. Better to cheer on a sure, yahoo-exciting loser than be stuck with defending another President Bush.
Another flaw in Bartlett's analysis is almost equally rude. Today's conservative coalition can't win the White House with the yahoos, but it also can't win without them. It can't win without the yahoo-infiltrated militarists, libertarians, holy rollers and racists, and it can't even win without the pure yahoos of no particular ideological bent (except that of unmitigated rage). The yahoos are an electorally indispensable element of the conservative coalition. And when one faction is indispensable, it's invulnerable. It must be pampered — see, e.g., Reince Priebus' rediscovered respect for Donald Trump.
The only way to vanquish Trump in the short run is to outTrump Trump, which is now a strategy in full bloom. The yahoos are everywhere, and their name is "Republican." There are Trumpian yahoos, there are Huckabeean yahoos, there are Cruzian yahoos and Walkerian yahoos and assorted Carsonesque, Jindalesque and Perryesque yahoos. Together they spell G-O-P.
The only way to vanquish Trumpism in the long run? Embrace it for now, as Bruce Bartlett has done. Hand it the keys to the party, which the yahoos have already done. Then, four or eight years hence, perhaps launch another party — a genuinely conservative party? Because this pseudoconservative one lies in the lethal, inextricable grip of the mucked yahoos.
If you should ever find yourself muttering something alongs the lines of, "Certainly, I think our candidates should pledge not to run as a third-party candidate," then you'll know you've entered the final stage of Priebusian palsy, apoplexy, and neurasthenia.
Did Ted Cruz not take any history courses at Princeton?
The Texas senator acts like, and even physically resembles, Sen. Joe McCarthy. The man most responsible for McCarthy's political assassination? Sen. Joe McCarthy, although the Republican Brutus coalition, through a vote of censure, delivered the coup de grâce. Now, both Cruz and Sen. McConnell's gang are well on their way to emulating McCarthy's last act.
Cruz is undoubtedly the smartest idiot on earth. As a Republican senator, one can defame one's partisan opponents, one can defame half the nation, one can even seek to undermine and destroy every tenet of responsible governance. In fact, as a Republican senator, all that is one's duty. But one must never repeatedly unnerve one's Republican colleagues.
That's a killer.
So it is written, but it seems as though Ted hasn't read it.